Common Questions Asked During a Citizenship Interview
This article will cover some of the most common questions asked during a United States Naturalization interview and the potential answers to those questions. Although this will not include every possible question you will come accross when seeking citizenship, it will give you an idea of a likely scenario during an actual interview.
Every year, depending on where you have the interview, the citizenship questions might change and are always evolving. It is important to stay up-to-date on what to expect by frequently visiting the United States government’s immigration and naturalization websites to see the most current information.
For an in-depth discussion on the steps to becoming a United States citizen, see our other article on everything you need to know about naturalization.
If you have any questions about the citizenship interview or the naturalization process, contact our experienced immigration lawyers here at Jackson, Landrith & Kulesz today.
BEFORE THE DAY OF YOUR CITIZENSHIP INTERVIEW
Once you have submitted your application to become a U.S. citizen, Form N-400, you will receive a follow-up notice from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The letter you receive at your home address will provide the details for your in-person interview and the citizenship examination and any other requirements.
The interview and examination will both be conducted on the same day, during the same meeting with the immigration officer. Before this happens, you may be required to submit to a “biometrics” appointment, where the government will take your fingerprints, photograph, and physical signature. Not all applicants will be required to do this.
However, the USCIS generally has the authority to require this of any applicant at any time. You will be notified in advance if you have been chosen. This simply allows the government to verify your identity and run your background check, so do not worry about this extra step!
After all the pre-interview steps are complete, you will have your interview and examination scheduled. The interview appointment notice will have all the information you need:
- The time
- Date, and
- Location of the interview,
- What documents you should bring with you.
What should I bring to the citizenship interview?
Always err on the side of caution- bringing more than you are asked to the interview is a good option so that you don’t risk delaying your application. Some items you will need to bring for the appointment are:
- The notice letter
- Your permanent resident card
- All passports you may have, and
- Your state-issued identification.
Other documents may include:
- Marriage or divorce papers,
- Name change documents,
- Selective service information,
- Any work papers, and/or
- Arrest records.
When you arrive at the designated interview location, you will be directed to check-in and wait to be greeted by your USCIS officer.
GREETING YOUR USCIS OFFICER
Your citizenship interview starts when your USCIS officer greets you in the waiting room. The officer will greet you with common phrases to assess your ability to speak English. Try not to be nervous, and remember to treat this as a casual and friendly conversation. Common greetings come in many forms, but here are a few of the most popular:
- How are you doing today?
- How is the weather?
- How are you feeling?
- How was the drive to the office?
Remember to speak clearly. If you do not hear or understand the USCIS officer, it’s perfectly okay to ask them to repeat the question. At this point, they will be leading you to their office, where they will conduct the more formal parts of the interview and examination. Try to go at your own pace and remain relaxed.
BEING PLACED UNDER OATH
Before the interview begins, the USCIS officer will have you take an oath. This step is important as it signifies that you promise to tell the truth regarding the answers you will give during the interview. When being placed under oath, the USCIS officer will ask:
- Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?
Your answer to this question will be “yes” or “I do.” Either one is fine. The USCIS officer may follow up with another question such as:
- Do you understand what an oath is?
An oath is a promise regarding one’s future actions or behavior. The legal phrase is that you are now under “penalty of perjury,” meaning it will be considered a crime to be dishonest from that point forward. Again, you can just say, “yes, it means I promise to tell the truth.”
It is important to note that the USCIS officer will draw questions for your naturalization interview directly from your Application for Naturalization (Form N-400). It is helpful to carefully review your N-400 application before the interview to keep your answers consistent.
Should you answer any questions differently from what you filled out on your N-400 application, you must make sure you can explain and support your new answer.
The USCIS officer is also testing your ability to speak English during this interview portion. Sample questions may include:
- What is your name?
- When were you born?
- How tall are you?
- How many children do you have?
- Where do you currently live?
- What is your marital status?
- Where do you work?
They might also ask questions about any recent travel outside of the United States, about participation in local organizations, or about any legal issues you may have. Answers to these personal questions should be answered truthfully, as you are under oath, and many of the questions can be easily verified.
Once again, it is important to keep in mind that the USCIS officer is making sure that the information you provide is consistent with what you put on your application for naturalization. The office wants to ensure everything is up-to-date, such as a new job you may have started after applying or a new baby in the family. At this time, you should let them know if anything has changed so that they can see you are willing to be transparent and open with them.
ETHICS AND CHARACTER
The USCIS officer will run you through a series of questions to determine if you have the moral character to become a U.S. citizen. These questions are typically drawn from your N-400 form and should be answered the same as your application. Examples of these questions are:
- Have you ever claimed to be a U.S. citizen?
- Do you understand, and are you willing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States?
- Will you obey the laws of the United States?
- Do you support the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. government?
Other than answering these questions honestly, as in the case of the first example question, it would be best if you generally were answering these questions in the affirmative: (“Yes”/ “I do”/ “Yes, I will”).
This shows that you are a decent and upstanding person who will be a good addition to the United States.
UNDERSTANDING OF U.S. HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT
The citizenship examination has two parts: an oral (verbal) civics and English proficiency test and a written portion.
The civics portion of the naturalization process is probably the most nerve-wracking. During this step in the process, you will be asked to verbally answer questions about the United States government and questions surrounding the history of the United States.
The USCIS officer will ask ten (10) questions, of which you must get six (6) correct. They will stop asking the questions once you have answered six correctly.
Here, we have provided questions and answers to some of the most common questions asked during the civics portion of the naturalization interview.
Q: What are the two major political parties in the United States?
A: Democrat and Republican
Q: What are the first ten amendments to the Constitution called?
A: The Bill of Rights
Q: What is the “rule of law”?
A: Everyone must follow the law. Leaders must obey the law. Government must obey the law. No one is above the law.
Q: Who was the first President of the United States?
A: George Washington
Q: When is American Independence Day?
A: July 4th
Q: How many U.S. senators are there?
A: One-hundred (100)
Q: How many amendments does the Constitution have?
A: Twenty-seven (27)
Q: What did the Declaration of Independence do?
A: Declared our independence (from Great Britain)
Q: What is one reason colonists came to America?
A: Possible answers: freedom, political liberty, religious freedom, economic opportunity, practice their religion, escape persecution
Q: Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
A: Possible answers: slavery, economic reasons, states’ rights
Q: How old do citizens have to be to vote for a President?
A: Eighteen (18) and older
Q: What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
A: Two possible answers: serve on a jury, vote in a federal election
You will also be asked to read and write a series of English sentences that the USCIS officer will give you. There will be six (6) sentences in total: three (3) will be written, and you will need to read them out loud, and three (3) will be dictated (read out loud) to you by the USCIS officer, and you will write down what you hear.
Feel free to ask them to repeat the sentence or speak more slowly if needed. Take your time with this, and be sure to write clearly. The good news is, you only need to get one (1) sentence correct in each category, meaning two (2) total, to pass this part of the test. To say this another way, you get three chances to get one oral sentence correct and three chances to get one written sentence correct.
WRAPPING UP AND ENDING THE INTERVIEW
The USCIS officer will let you know your examination results right there during the interview. You will know immediately whether or not they have decided to recommend you for citizenship approval, which is the next step in the naturalization process, based on your exam score and how the interview went.
In some cases, you will go home and wait for a final approval decision, or, sometimes, you might get approval right away and may be able to take your oath for citizenship that same day! Either way, the hard part is over once you have successfully passed the examinations and mastered the interview. You can remain hopeful that you will soon become a United States citizen. Good luck!
We help our clients through every step of the immigration process to ensure they are prepared at every point. If you have any questions about the citizenship examinations or any other immigration questions, contact us today for a consultation.